Ed Thompson: What have you been doing with your time off?
Mike Minter: I'm just taking it easy, looking at my options, seeing what I'm going to do with the next six months. TV is an option, so is radio. I have some coaching opportunities at the high school level. Being a part of the Panther organization is definitely part of what's out there, and at the present time I just spend time on the businesses that I have. We have the development business, the Ruckus House, the preschools that we built all over. It's been a great time spending time with the family and the boys, coaching them in Little League and watching the Panthers games.
ET: Other than that family time it sounds like you're still a very busy guy…
MM: I had more down-time when I was playing football than I have not playing football. It's going to be busy, but at the same time it's something I look forward to.
ET: When and how did you know you were ready to retire? And who was the first person in the Panthers' organization that you told?
MM: I knew after the third practice in training camp. My knees were hurting real bad and it really wasn't coming back. I started thinking about later in the season -- how I would be feeling and knowing the importance of trying to get a practice in to prepare for the next game -- could I come back and play right? So I made a couple comments to the trainer, and the first person that I sat down and talked to was Coach [John] Fox. I just let him know what was going on, and then I talked to Marty Hurney, our general manager, and then to [team owner] Mr. Richardson. After talking to those three guys and Mike Bunkley, our team chaplain, I knew it was time to walk away from the game.
ET: What are you most proud of from your NFL career?
MM: I think the biggest thing is that people respect what I did on the football field and they respect what I did off the football field. They looked at me as a man that loved the game and played it hard, but as a man that was more than a football player. I think that's the one thing I can always look back and say that's what I accomplished. The reception that I've gotten since announcing my retirement is unbelievable.
ET: What's going to influence your decision on what you do next as you weigh your options?
MM: Me and my wife have been sitting down and we'll talk about the future and our options. I'm really putting her into the decision-making process. When we first got married in college she knew I was going to play in the National Football League. So it was a decision that was made by me -- and then the Carolina Panthers as far as drafting us and making us come here to Carolina. So she really hasn't had a chance to decide what we do with our lives, and I think it's very important that I bring her into the mix and that's going to be the driving force. What we do all the time is we'll sit and we'll pray and ask God for guidance and ask Him to lead us in the right direction because at the end of the day that's what we're going to need.
ET: Do you have any preliminary thoughts about where in the Panthers organization you could be an asset to them?
MM: Not really. I think being able to be around the players, teaching the young guys what it really means to be a Carolina Panther, what it really means to be a professional football player and that to be in this league is a privilege and you need to treat it like that. Also that you need to prepare yourself for life after football - I think that's important. But at the same time being able to pick out talent and help out on that level I think would be fun. I understand how to run a business and make it successful since I have 5 to 6 of my own right now. Any area like that, I'd be happy to be in that organization.
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ET: Who really stood out to you amongst Carolina's rookie class this year?
MM: I think when you look at them, you look at (linebacker Jon) Beason. Beason was the first-rounder they picked, he's a football player. You can tell a football player right off the bat by what they're doing -- and this is the type of guy who knows how to read, he gets to the ball, he makes plays, and that's what you want. He's fast, he's got speed and I think that's a guy you have to look after and look for. Then (Ryan) Kalil, the center they picked up in the second round, I think he'll be a big-time asset to the Panthers also.
ET: Did the team bring in Chris Harris before even you or they knew you were going to retire?
MM: Yeah, we talked about it way back in February, that's why we did the contract the way we did it back in February. After the season I was feeling like I couldn't go anymore. Then we talked about one more season and what I told them was let me see about training camp, let me see how it goes and if I can do it, everything will be fine. I wanted them to know it wasn't about money, it was really about could I do it, could I play one more season. So it gave them some cap room back in February and that's why going into the draft they were trying to draft a safety or safeties. Then when they made the trade, by that time they pretty much knew it was over for me.
ET: What can you tell us about Chris Harris? What are his strengths? And did you give him any advice before you left?
MM: Absolutely. I got to see him practice for about two or three days and basically what I told him was what I saw early on. He's a young guy, he's fast, he's quick, he's a big safety, he can get all the movements and he's smart -- he'll pick it up. So what I told him is you have to be patient, because he was moving too fast. I saw him coming up on a run way too fast, and as a safety you can't come up that fast because if they play-action and throw the ball over your head, it's going to be a long night for you. What I tried to tell him is that he's fast enough to be able to get there and you have to trust that. That is one piece of advice I try to give all safeties -- be patient guys, it looks like you can't get there but you really can.
ET: What do you think the biggest challenges will be for the Panthers this year?
MM: I think the biggest challenge is going to be special teams. I think we need to step up in that area. Also, it looks like the offensive line got better, but that's going to be critical area. At the same time, we have to have Dan Morgan healthy. With Dan Morgan healthy, that defense is a top-three defense. If he's not, they're somewhere around ten, eleven, or twelve. So he's very vital to the success of Carolina's defense.
ET: Is there anything you'd like to pass on to the Panther fans?
MM: Basically it's been a great ten years there in Carolina and the fans have been awesome. I've been telling people that retiring is similar to dieing, and you get to go to your funeral -- you get to hear all of these great things about yourself and how people really feel about you, and it's been unbelievable. My family has been totally blessed by all of the emails and what's been said about us in magazines, but it's not the end of the road -- it's just another chapter of how we work together in the Carolina community.
Scout.com subscribers can listen to the rest of this interview where Mike talks about who helped him the most when he arrived as a rookie back in 1997. And he also talks about how the game and the players have changed over the past ten years: Listen to Audio
A member of the Professional Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's NFL and college football player interviews and features have been published across the Scout.com network and syndicated through FoxSports.com's NFL team pages.